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A woman is speaking out after being kicked out of a mall for wearing shorts and a tank top.
Hannah Pewee, 20, was shopping recently at Woodland Mall in Kentwood, Michigan, when a security guard approached her and asked her to leave the property. An anonymous person had reported Pewee to mall security for her “inappropriate” outfit.
Pewee, who lives in nearby Grand Rapids, posted a photo of the denim shorts and “Finding Nemo” tank top she was wearing to Facebook, along with a furious message about the incident.
“As many of you know, it is NINETY degrees outside today in West Michigan,” Pewee wrote. “So, of course, I decided to dress for the weather: shorts and a tank top.”
She had worn that same outfit to Woodland Mall before and, in fact, she had bought the shorts and Disney tank top at that mall. So she was shocked to hear about the complaint, especially since many other young women around her were wearing similar outfits.
“I am so angry right now I'm shaking,” Pewee wrote. “I felt so embarrassed I almost cried. All because a stranger didn't like how I dressed.”
The main issue was with the length of her shorts, the mall official told Pewee.
“Their exact words (were) that their policy requires that ‘everything be covered,'" Pewee told TODAY Style. “This isn’t accurate, as when I got home and checked their website, their policy was only, ‘Appropriate attire, including shirts and shoes, is required.’”
That guideline is still listed on the Woodland Mall Code of Conduct, at the time of this article's publication, along with a ban on clothing with inappropriate words or graphics.
Pewee’s Facebook post about her experience quickly went viral, racking up more than 17,000 likes. As her story drew nationwide attention, Pewee was contacted by other women sharing their own dress code experiences at Woodland Mall.
“Several women reached out to me saying that this had happened to them, too — not on the same day as me, but in the past!” Pewee said. “They’d been kicked out for various reasons, all related to their attire. All of them felt, like me, that they hadn’t been treated fairly.”
The day after Pewee’s post went viral, she had a phone call with the management team at Woodland Mall. She said the team apologized for the incident and said the mall will revise its clothing policy.
Mary Ann Sabo, a spokesperson for Woodland Mall, confirmed the mall is working on clarifying its dress guidelines.
“Woodland Mall has a dress code policy in place that we enforce. We’re currently reassessing the level of detail in our dress code and will train our team on it in hopes to avoid situations like this in the future,” she told TODAY Style in an email. “Our ultimate goal is to create an environment where all of our shoppers feel welcome and we, again, apologize for how this matter was handled.”
Pewee said that while she was “initially satisfied” by the apology, she was then confused by what she views as “contradictory posts” from the mall on Facebook.
She especially took issue with one of the mall's Facebook statements that reads, in part, "We can assure you that the enforcement of our dress code was solely motivated by complaints from other shoppers of inadequate clothing coverage not reflected in the photo posted online."
Pewee said she wasn’t sure what the mall meant by that.
“If they're trying to (imply) that I'm lying, I can promise you that the outfit I posted was the outfit I was wearing. I'm sure they have the security footage to confirm that,” she told TODAY Style. “If they're trying to (imply) how my clothes look in the photo isn't inadequate, then I never should have been kicked out to begin with.”
We asked the mall to clarify what they meant by this statement, and will update if we hear back.
Pewee says the mall’s dress code needs to be clarified, especially during the summer months when many shoppers wear shorts and tank tops. For now, though, she says she will steer clear of Woodland Mall altogether.
“I’ve been shopping there since I was a kid,” she said. “However, after the way I’ve been treated by the mall, I think I would only return there if there was no other option.”
This story was originally published on June 14, 2017.